This confluence of material interests — ranging from aerospace and defense contractors and other members of the military‐industrial complex to well‐funded lobbyists for foreign governments — is buttressed further by a media elite that appears entirely at peace with the disaster that neoconservative policy‐making has wrought on the country. Instead of hiring someone who has demonstrated wisdom about foreign policy — someone who threw the penalty flag on the Iraq War before it started, say — The New York Times gives William Kristol a regular column on its op‐ed page (alongside his ideological twin David Brooks) because Kristol is believed to be in possession of the all‐important “influence.”
None of the people who urged us to start the war (except, perhaps, the president himself) have failed to be insulated from the disaster that their policies have wrought. From Michael O’Hanlon’s omnipresence on the leading op‐ed pages to Paul Wolfowitz’s appointment to Robert S. McNamara’s old post as head of the World Bank, the architects of our Iraq policy have emerged from the wreckage that their plans produced with their reputations remarkably intact. The much‐vaunted “marketplace of ideas” seems to be suffering from market failure.
In addition to the range of special interests and the insular and narcissistic media elite, the war party is supported by the largesse of a number of billionaires who seem to have been convinced — after having been informed that the choice before them is between victory and holocaust — that they personally are under existential threat every day. This is a strong motivation indeed. On the other side, it is true, George Soros has done heroic work in attempting to beat back the ideologues who brought the country to war in Iraq, but he cannot win alone against the legions arrayed on the other side.
At the level of the ideological infantry, neoconservatism is a career, as Scott McConnell has observed and Randy Scheunemann has proved. Noninterventionism, or realism, or even liberal internationalism of the variety Matt is selling, is not.
Accordingly, at this point I am less concerned about the battle of ideas than I am about the battle of interests. The facts have a way of making inroads, ultimately, in the battle of ideas. But to consolidate the gains our side has won in the ideological struggle against those who got us into Iraq, there will need to be a much more substantial array of interests aligned to populate Aspin’s currently nonexistent “other side.” Otherwise, we will clap each other on the back and congratulate ourselves for our strategic and moral rectitude as the country is led further and further toward the inevitable denouement of empire.